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traveler2005 Mar 11th, 2010 05:53 AM

Costa Rica - money
Normally when we travel in a foreign country, we use a combination of credit cards and local money from an ATM. Reading about Costa Rica, it sounds like they commonly take US dollars. Should we plan on using dollars or should be get $ from an ATM?

AustinTraveler Mar 11th, 2010 06:18 AM

I would definitely get colones from the ATM. We didn't use dollars at all while there. If you do use US$ expect to get colones as change, and you won't get an exact exchange rate either.

Personally, I just think it's right to use a country's currency while visiting there.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Mar 11th, 2010 08:48 AM

I would withdraw local currency too. The "Everybody takes dollars" approach ends up costing you something, sometimes up to 15%. Many businesses do accept dollars, but they'll calculate things at an exchange rate that's favorable to them, not you. You have to expect that. You're paying for the convenience of not having to change the money. They're the ones who will have to do that.

Nobody is under any obligation to accept dollars. Very small places don't. If you're out and stop at some little store to get a bottle of water, they're not going to take dollars. You're going to need some local currency.

hipvirgochick Mar 11th, 2010 09:32 AM

I use colones as well whenever possible. You can lose a lot of money using U.S. because many places will "round down" on the exchange.

volcanogirl Mar 11th, 2010 12:41 PM

They do commonly take U.S. dollars; they've been accepted everywhere we've been, but as noted, you don't always get the best exchange rate. We went to a tiny fruit stand in the middle of nowhere and they did give us the good rate which was a nice surprise. Regarding your credit card, be sure to call your cc company before you go or they may freeze your account. Also be aware that some cc companies charge a foreign transaction fee, usually 1-3%.

traveler2005 Mar 11th, 2010 01:17 PM

Thanks for your replies. Everything you all said makes sense and we'll do the conversion. With ATM's, it's sure easy enough to do.

steviegene Mar 11th, 2010 04:41 PM

We wanted to take a bunch of cash with us -- where is the best place to exchange? Would our hotel exchange?

swim Mar 11th, 2010 10:18 PM

You can ask the exchange rate before you shop. We usually used the big grocery stores, department stores, they gave better rate than the hotel. Everything is in their computer, can change daily. In February we seen signs at gas stations, that they won't accept $100 and $50 bills. There are many places where no ATM, but the dollar is accepted. Make sure you have plenty of smaller bills, 10s, 20s.

Suzie2 Mar 12th, 2010 05:17 AM

On top of the foreign transaction fees you may also be charged the CR bank fee that the businesses are charged here in CR for credit card usage. Ask before using your card. As was mentioned, do notify your cc company that you will be in CR. They will probably ask how long. Years ago we had ours frozen because I didn't. Thankfully I had my regular debit card too and was able to access money with that.

The worse place to exchange is in the airport but if you are picking up a rental car immediately you might want to change just a few dollars for the tolls on some of the roads. At least have some one dollar bills or change.

hsmithcr Mar 12th, 2010 05:31 AM

The best place to exchange cash is at a bank and they are everywhere, even in small towns. They will use the official rate less a few colones for a fee. Most grocery stores and hotels are really not set up to exchange large amounts of money. Your best bet is to use banks to exchange cash and ATM's.

ReddTyde Mar 12th, 2010 04:50 PM

One note: if possible, use ATM during bank business hours. While in Quepos an ATM totally screwed up my partner's transaction which we were able to immediately correct inside (luckily). Machine said it dispensed money which it did not.

Techtravler Mar 20th, 2010 09:29 AM

So what about places like tour operators, private drivers etc, that are quoting everything in US dollars? What is the best way to Pay them? I do not like to carry much cash at all, but obviously I will not be able to get US dollars once I arrive.


hipvirgochick Mar 20th, 2010 01:03 PM

If you are quoted in U.S. then pay in U.S. However, you can usually ask for price in colones too.

LindainOhio Mar 21st, 2010 03:38 AM

Do banks have Saturday hours? We are arriving on Saturday at noon. We have a complimentary shuttle to Xandari. Would the driver make a bank stop--or is there a bank near the airport?

I have been assuming the prices we have been quoted for our drivers/guide are in US dollars but am now thinking they might be quoting me in colones. I can't tell from the emails. They just have a $ sign. We will need to pay our driver on Sunday and I am assuming banks are closed on Sunday.

Techtravler Mar 21st, 2010 05:00 AM

I think you would know if the prices were quoted in Colones. 1 US Dollar is = to 532 Colones. SO if some one was charging you $100.00 for something it would be 53,200 Colones.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Mar 21st, 2010 05:14 AM

The colon sign is like a cent sign before the number:


$ means US dollars.

Jeff_Costa_Rica Mar 21st, 2010 05:16 AM

If they're quoting you prices in dollars, they'll be happy to take dollars or colones based on that day's exchange rate.

volcanogirl Mar 21st, 2010 11:21 AM

Linda, our guides and drivers have always given the prices in dollars, so that would be my guess too.

cdrcos Mar 21st, 2010 11:25 AM

We were there in January and would advise using an ATM to get money. The exchange rate is currently around 535 colones to the dollar, but if you pay with US $, they seem to round off and use the 500 colones to the dollar, which is easier. However this way you lose around 6% on each transaction.

Techtravler Mar 21st, 2010 03:17 PM

I spoke to the driver I plan on using and he said there are US $ ATMs there. This surprises me a bit. I have seen this before in the Bahamas, but did not expect it in Costa Rica.

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